We often say that game drives at Ulusaba are one of the most memorable parts of any visit, but this week was an extra special one for the team. Conservation Manager, Trevor Savage, gives us an update on what he saw out in the bush:
“This past week was easily one of the best weeks of game viewing I’ve ever had in over fifteen years of being a guide. My guests wanted to focus on photography (my passion) and we were treated to some truly unbelievable sightings and photographic opportunities. We saw leopards bathing in the sunlight, lions hunting at first light, and bateleur eagles drinking in the Sand River…it was a week I will never forget.
The real highlight though, was undoubtedly the unexpected return of the two Ximungwe lionesses. The Ximungwe pride was presumed dead when the last adult female was killed in a territorial battle with another pride, the remaining three sub-adults in the pride disappeared over a year ago. They’d never been seen again and had been presumed dead.
Three mornings ago, as we headed out on drive, I was joking with Eric, my tracker, saying “I’m feeling lucky today, Eric. I just have a feeling we are going to see something amazing”. We were checking the river that morning for any tracks or signs of animals, when we came across two pairs of lioness tracks coming south from the river. We were not sure who the tracks belonged to as the Otthowa pride had been found earlier that day far away and all pride members had been accounted for.
As we started following the tracks we could hear impala alarm-calling in the direction of where the tracks were heading, so Jason, my colleague, and I went to the area to follow up . After some time we found two lionesses but the bush was very thick, which made it tough to get a clear view and ascertain who the lionesses were. After following for some time they came out into the open. Stunned, Eric exclaimed “Stop! Those are the Ximungwes!” The look of joy and bewilderment on his face was priceless! I asked him if he was sure, not hiding my own shock and disbelief, his quiet response, “Trev, you never forget what your children look like” shaking his head in bemusement. Upon thorough inspection the two lionesses were undoubtedly the two missing Ximungwes, they both have very distinct scars which confirmed undisputedly that it was them. I was so elated that they were still alive as I’ve had the privilege of observing that pride for the past fifteen years.
The two lionesses, true to form, have provided us with some incredible sightings over the past few days – climbing trees, lazing in the winter sun, and the icing on the cake after welcoming them home, a thrilling kill right in front of our game drive vehicle!
The Western Sector is abuzz with the news of the return of the girls. We all hope they will settle here again and re-establish their previous territory. Wouldn’t it be magnificent if they ‘came home’ and produced cubs, resurrecting once more, the legendary Ximungwe pride.